Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Reading

Any discussion related to Victor's Hugo's Les Misérables, in any language.
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MmeBahorel
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby MmeBahorel » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:00 am

I swear i have two mental images for that bit. One is that classic woodcut of dying (not yet completely dead) slaves being thrown overboard to the sharks. The other is the Wreck of the Medusa. In both cases, black man overboard. So I have a weird mental bias on that. Obviously other people have different mental images. But one does have to wonder if the editor had particular mental images that led him to excise that part, believing those mental images would be universal and "inappropriately" disturbing.
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:06 am

Perhaps. I agree though, "Wreck of the Medusa" makes me shiver.

Then again 'inappropriately' disturbing has an interesting meaning at that point in history; this was the age that also censored Whitman---but to my knowledge his Civil War related works weren't under fire, am I right?
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby between4walls » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:03 am

I honestly thought they cut the passage for it's metaphorical implication- the transatlantic slave trade didn't occur to me since it had been illegal for so long at that point, though as was mentioned there were still iconic images. I suck at visualizing stuff so I don't have any clear mental images as MmeBahorel does.

But the metaphor is clear on the immorality of letting people fall completely out of the protection of society, even criminals, and slavery is all about deliberately putting millions of people outside of society and humane treatment on purpose and blithely sailing on. What's painted as indifference in the metaphor is a glorified principle in a slave society.

Sophiedegrouchy's lecture mentioned general passages about equality being cut because of their implications, and while this one isn't really about equality, it's definitely about inequality.

I wonder which of the two translators cut this passage?
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby between4walls » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:11 am

Listening to Sophiedegrouchy's lecture, it's very interesting that Thenardier becoming a slave trader was left in and not censored. Were slave traders looked down on in the South despite slaveholders' dependence on them? Was it considered a basically shady profession even by pro-slavery types?

Anyone know?
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby freedomlover » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:22 pm

the North profited from the trade, sadly most of the North wasn't interested in abolishing slavery due to this. States such as NJ had weird systems where they claimed to be free but gave slave owning "exceptions"
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby Gervais » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:47 pm

Basically, slave traders weren't the most popular folks, but people put up with them. So that would be a yes, b4w.

In contrast to a slaveholder who may have bought or sold slaves locally and for a variety of reasons, traders earned a living primarily by purchasing enslaved people from slaveholders in the Upper South and selling them to buyers in the Lower South. In the popular imagination, according to Gudmestad, "The trader broke up families, emphasized profit above piety, manipulated reality, and ruined paternalism. The stereotype had all the qualities that slaveowners were supposed to control" (p. 190). Gudmestad argues that "when [the slaveholder] could not meet this idea, the speculator was one way to explain their failure.... [slaveholders] blamed all others--banks, debt, abolitionists, the slaves themselves--for the slave trade because to admit their own culpability would have undermined the whole basis of their society" (p. 190). The idea that slaves represented cash above any supposed membership in a slaveholder's extended family upset southerners and inspired reactions, from moral outrage to regulatory legislation. In response, traders joined southern politicians and other proslavery apologists to sanitize the image of the slave trade so that by the mid-1830s, southerners could defend slavery and slave trading in the same breath. Gudmestad argues compellingly that southerners ended up agreeing to ignore the realities of speculation in the interstate slave trade in order to preserve the social order it supported.


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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby between4walls » Sat Mar 02, 2013 11:24 pm

Thanks, Gervais! Great article!

So that makes sense of why it wasn't cut.
Here day embraces night, and says: I will die with you and you will be reborn with me. From the heavy embrace of all desolations springs faith.

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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby Gervais » Sat Mar 02, 2013 11:36 pm

Anytime. :mrgreen: Glad to help.

Although part of me kind of wonders how the heck Waterloo stayed in, since they seemed to be on a Rants cut as well as a cultural cut, but it could be my brain not processing things again.
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby MmeBahorel » Sat Mar 02, 2013 11:46 pm

But it's all about how the army is awesome and every Confederate soldier, if losing, should follow the example of Cambronne! "Merde" is totally a rebel yell, right?
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Sun Mar 03, 2013 4:51 am

Virtually all the Napoleon stuff stays in! Two levels of explanation:
1. Descriptions of warfare were interesting and relatable for people living in wartime. Look at the NYT Disunion article that b4w linked on the first page for a quote from a (Union) soldier saying how Waterloo was relevant to his life.
2. The Confederacy was aligned with France under Louis-Napoleon. Sure, Hugo hated L-N to little flaming pieces, but the glorious stuff he says about the first Napoleon could play into a general adulation of the Bonapartist line.

(I had a hunch/vague memory that slave traders weren't seen as particularly good or popular people in the south, but thanks for the source confirming it, Gervais!)

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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby Gervais » Sun Mar 03, 2013 5:03 am

How did I not think of those? :oops: Because I'm operating on four or five hours of sleep. That makes so much sense, though, especially the first one. Give your troops something that depicts what they go through with people you like and somewhat depend on. Thanks for clearing that!
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby YoungStudentMarius » Sun Mar 03, 2013 5:06 am

I was curious about that, too, but now it makes so much sense! I can see why they'd leave it in, then, definitely. Thank you. As does the slave trade thing; another question I was curious about that thankfully has been answered. Trying to understand the mind of a Confederate editor...
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Readin

Postby between4walls » Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:41 pm

Here's a reprinted announcement of the Confederate edition, specifically mentioning the Waterloo digression as an attraction (fitting in with what hernaniste's said about it).

"Les Misérables; A Novel, by Victor Hugo. — We have received from the publishers, Messrs. West & Johnston, the first part of this long-expected and intensely dramatic work, which has created such an immense sensation in Europe. Although partaking of the exaggeration of the modern French school of fiction, it is a work of great power and eloquence, and will be read with absorbing interest. Fantine — such is the title of this first part — is a complete novel in itself, and will shortly be followed by Cosette, an equally interesting romance; the opening chapters, by the way, contain the most graphic description of the battle of Waterloo we have seen anywhere. The whole series, consisting of five parts, will be issued in four volumes — the third and fourth parts constituting one volume.

[From the (London) Westminster Review]
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The foundation of half a dozen great reputations might be discovered in the pages of Les Misérables. The presence of genius is felt by the reader in every chapter and page. A deep insight into human nature; a warm and almost passionate sympathy with human suffering; a pictorial power scarcely rivaled in our days; a dramatic force which strikes out new and thrilling effects in every new situation; an inexhaustible variety of character, incident, and illustration; and a vivid eloquence, absolutely unequalled by any living author of the same class — these are some, and only some, of the leading qualities by means of which Victor Hugo has made ‘Les Misérables’ one of the great literary monuments of the century."

[I think the second paragraph is the one from the Westminster Review.]
Here day embraces night, and says: I will die with you and you will be reborn with me. From the heavy embrace of all desolations springs faith.

The real name of devotion is disinterestedness.

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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Reading

Postby Maria Combeferre » Sun Oct 25, 2015 4:12 am

There is a mention in the beginning of Gone with the Wind of how one the plantation families are rather cold-shouldered by their neighbours, in (large) part becouse the had sold some of their slaves to a passing trader.
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Re: Lee's Miserable Translation and Confederate Brick Reading

Postby Chantefleurie » Sun Oct 25, 2015 8:52 pm

Speaking of Gone With the Wind, I've read and loved that book years before I came across the Brick, and Melanie's reading of "Lee's Misérables" was one of my first recommendations of the book. :) Now, having read it, I wonder if there is any passage she would choose to read in particular that night when they were waiting for their men to come home, watched by the Yankee soldiers. Any thoughts or guesses? Would she open the book at random, or actually read a part that somehow reflects their mood and situation?
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